Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro won the country’s presidential elections yesterday, although the local opposition and a large part of the international community announced they considered them to be illegitimate.
According to the Venezuelan Electoral Council, Maduro received 5.8 million votes, almost 68 percent of the votes cast; he was followed by Henri Falcón, one of the few candidates who decided to run, with 1.8 million votes.
The electoral body announced that the turnout reached 48 percent of the poll: an extremely low figure, especially considering that the average in the country’s last elections had hovered around 80 percent. Even Luis Emilio Rondón, the only member of the Council that does not support the government, acknowledged that “unfortunately, we witnessed a day marked by the breaking of electoral agreements.”
Representatives of the opposition and of a large part of the international community that have been critical of the regime announced that, according to neutral observers, the turnout was in fact significantly lower, with 82.96 percent of the poll refraining from voting.
Informadores neutrales internacionales señalan que la abstención en las elecciones llega al 82,96% del padrón electoral venezolano. Reiteramos que el resultado de estas elecciones no será reconocido por el Grupo de Lima ni sus países miembro.
— Informaciones Grupo de Lima ? (@thelimagroup) May 20, 2018
“We reiterate that the results of this election will not be acknowledged by the Lima Group or its member countries,” reads the tweet posted by the account that divulges official statements of the Lima Group, a group of Latin American states critical of the Maduro regime’s actions.
The elections were considered to be a sham even before being held. Therefore, many high-profile leaders of the opposition – especially the main coalition called Mesa de Unidad Democrática – refused to partake, as doing so would mean acknowledging the legitimacy of an election being held in a country where most opposition members are either in prison, banned from running or have left the country as a result of political persecution.
Henri Falcón, who did run, did not acknowledge the results either and request the elections be held again. He said he was willing to do them again, but in a context of legitimacy.
Despite their decision to refrain from running, opposition leaders expressed their solidarity with Falcón. “There is no democracy here. The people’s right to vote has been kidnapped. We must all join to demand free and democratic elections,” said Juan Andrés Mejía, member of Voluntad Popular party.
The Lima Group was quick to speak along the same lines, while the regional heads of state who have put themselves at the forefront of the diplomatic clashes issued statements of their own as well.
Speaking at a work dinner in the context of the G20’s meeting of Foreign Affairs Ministers, President Mauricio Macri made reference to the situation and said “clearly, that [Venezuela] is no longer a democracy.”
“I hope we steer clear from vague, comfortable statements, and achieve more precise definitions [regarding the subject] before the meeting of heads of state,” said Macri to the Foreign Ministers present at the event.
Chilean President Sebastián Piñera issued a statement along the same lines on Twitter yesterday, saying the elections “do not meet minimum standards of a real democracy.”
Las elecciones en Venezuela no cumplen con estándares mínimos de una verdadera https://t.co/tHg3uEiA92 son elecciones limpias y legítimas y no representan la voluntad libre y soberana del pueblo venezolano.CHILE,como la mayoría de paises democráticos,no reconoce estas elecciones
— Sebastian Piñera (@sebastianpinera) May 20, 2018
“They are not clean, nor legitimate elections, and they do not represent the free and sovereign will of the Venezuelan people. Chile, same as most democratic countries, does not acknowledge these elections,” reads the rest of the tweet.
US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo also took to Twitter to vocalize the country’s official stance.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 20, 2018
The Trump administration has threatened with imposing stricter sanctions on the Caribbean country, and/or its officials. There are currently more than 70 officials who have been sanctioned by the US and the European Union.
Maduro predictably rejected all accusations and celebrated what he considered to be a historic election, due to the difference of votes with the runner-up. “Never before had a presidential candidate got 68 percent of the popular vote, and never before had one got a 47 percent difference over the second candidate. Knockout, he was left groggy,” said Maduro in an acceptance speech given outside the Palacio Miraflores.
Maduro further criticized his main rival saying that in the end “the people were right to call him ‘Henri Falsón,” a word play with his nickname that means fake.
When consulted about the statements from the American officials, Maduro doubled down saying that “the attacks coming from the Ku Klux Klan government against the Venezuelan people have lost a great deal of privilege.”
In these conditions, Maduro will begin a new six-year term in January 2019.